I couldn’t be more than 5. Someone–my grandfather?–had just shot a fox. Someone thought it would be fun to have me pose, gripping the rifle with the fox suspended from the clothes line so it would look like I had been the hunter.
My grandmother stands behind me in the photograph. She is smiling. I’d do anything to please Grandma Katie. I was her favorite grandchild.
I have a strange grin on my face as if I’m not quite sure what is going on. I wonder if the rifle is still warm to my touch. I wonder what I am thinking—or did I turn numb and go outside my body?
I always loved animals. My Grandma’s farm included Laddie and Boy-Dog. Did I identify with the fox so recently shot? I can’t believe I was not upset—me who hated even to step on ants!
I wouldn’t doubt that this was the beginning of my becoming a pacifist and animal rights advocate.
Reflections six years later…..
I know it’s a story. I realize I can’t literally know what I was thinking and feeling back then. I do believe that time is a human construct for our convenience. I’d bet my intuition that this present day “I” can, at times, intuitively connect with my younger self. That’s why I wrote the story the way it spoke to me in 2005.
Now I’m grown up, I know that foxes eat chickens and that nature is often about survival. I still don’t wish that fox dead. Or at least made a big display of, an achievement, a rite of passage for the man who shot it. I know we all have to die but I still don’t like it when some of them are grandmother, mother, friends—and animals unnecessarily.
But this is also about my relationship with Grandma Katie. She adopted my mother from the Children’s Home after her biological mother died. When my mother became pregnant with me in 1949, she married and her college education ended. My mother wanted to be an artist and attend the Art Institute of Chicago. My grandmother expected her to be a teacher like her and go to nearby Miami University. So the torch was passed to me, the malleable 5 year old. Barely in kindergarten and my future was laid out before me.
I was all about pleasing Grandma Katie. She was like a second mother. She adored me and I adored her. She saved money to pay my college tuition. I never did become a teacher in a traditional sense. After I retired from the public library, I taught using Women Writing for (a) Change processes.
But back to the wanting to please: it’s a disease. For most of my life, I’ve wanted people to like me (is this not a natural human condition?). It is only when I came out in the 70s that I risked displeasure and sometimes hatred from the larger world. I’m still here; I made it! But this urge to please others has had an impact: I get tired. Never to say no is downright unnatural. It makes me wonder if I can set my own priorities. I also have a bodhisattva complex but that’s another story. My early New Year’s Resolution is to say . . . . . no, and no, and no so when I do say YES! it will be so deeply true.
Reflections written August 2011